IDF censor questioned over blocking gov’t report on prisoner exchange

The report's conclusion has been released, but its details have been kept classified.

An IDF soldier stands next to a blindfolded Palestinian prisoner (photo credit: REUTERS/IDF HANDOUT)
An IDF soldier stands next to a blindfolded Palestinian prisoner
(photo credit: REUTERS/IDF HANDOUT)
In a rare legal showdown, IDF chief censor Brig.-Gen. Ariella Ben-Avraham was cross-examined in Tel Aviv District Court on Sunday in an attempt to compel the state to publish the final Shamgar Report on strategies for prisoner exchanges.
The report’s overall conclusion was that prisoner exchanges incentivized future terrorist operations to kidnap IDF soldiers, but its full details have been kept classified.
Eliezer Shraga, the attorney for the Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel, got Ben-Avraham to admit that she was not an expert in intelligence or prisoner exchange issues and that she, not the IDF intelligence chief or the IDF chief-of-staff, had made the decision to censor the report.
Shraga, who filed the petition to bring the case in 2016, tried to imply that Ben-Avraham had insufficient experience to make such a decision on her own.
He also showed Ben-Avraham excerpts from the Winograd Report on the Second Lebanon War that encouraged public debate on the issue of kidnapped IDF soldiers and prisoner exchanges.
The state tried to block Ben-Avraham from having to address the excerpts, however, the court ordered her to respond.
Ben-Avraham spoke defensively, saying she did not think her censoring the full and final Shamgar Report contradicted the idea of public debate.
She said she thought there could be a public debate without all of the details of the report – some of which she said could endanger state security and undermine future prisoner-exchange negotiations.
The NGO contended that in order to reach decisions on the momentous issue, public debate can only be informed by knowing the full report’s conclusions.
Throughout the hearing, Ben-Avraham and Shraga debated how to judge what endangers state security.